Classic gear: 1960s Fender Stratocasters

1963 Fender Stratocaster
(Image credit: Future)

By the beginning of the 1960s, the Stratocaster had already experienced its most significant changes. In 1959, rosewood fretboards with ‘clay’ dot markers superseded the guitar’s initial fretted maple-neck design, and an 11-hole, three-layer ‘mint green’ nitrate pickguard replaced the original eight-hole, single-layer white plastic ’guard. 

The first rosewood fretboards had a flat base and are thus referred to as ‘slab’ fretboards. Slab ’boards can be easily identified at either end of the neck, exhibiting a downwards curve at the headstock. In August 1962, Fender began using a curved-base veneer rosewood fretboard, which became thinner the following year. Contrary to slab ’boards, veneer ’boards display an upwards curve at the headstock end.

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Rod Brakes

Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar WorldGuitar Player and MusicRadar in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.